What' Most robots are white, so our soon-to-be overlords are tainted with 'human racism??!

What' Most robots are white, so our soon-to-be overlords are tainted with 'human racism??!

Most of the robots coming off the assembly line are white, and this is problematic, according to a team of researchers from the Human Interface Technology lab in New Zealand. While there are legitimate reasons for this color choice – white shows dirt and foreign objects more readily and is less likely to retain heat than other colors – the self-styled sentinels of sensitivity jumped right to announcing that humanity’s inherent racism has been reproduced in the bots we’ve built. And CNN, for one, is extremely concerned.

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Imagine a world in which all the robots working in Africa or India are white. Further imagine that these robots take over roles that involve authority. Clearly, this would raise concerns about imperialism and white supremacy,” lead researcher Christoph Bartneck told CNN, skipping right over the concerns about robots “taking over roles that involve authority.” Giving robots power over humanity is fine, as long as they represent a diverse cross-section of the species they’re going to dominate!

Apparently, the downtrodden peoples of India and Africa will slip back into colonialism, mindlessly deferring to white robot rulers unless a robotic Gandhi or Mandela is built to lead them out of bondage – even though India is a world leader in robotics.

"If robots are supposed to function as teachers, friends, or carers, for instance, then it will be a serious problem if all of these roles are only ever occupied by robots that are racialized as White," the researchers wrote. But who is racializing the robots?

Researchers ran two versions of a “shooter biastest, which purports to measure the subconscious racism of the test subject by forcing them to make the split second decision whether or not to pull the trigger when confronted with a person carrying an item that may or may not be a gun. Subjects were presented with a “white” robot (actually beige) and a “black” robot (actually brown), as well as a white and a black human; all presented with either a gun or a benign object.

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Test subjects’ quicker reaction in shooting black robots and humans pointing guns at them and their quicker recognition that unarmed white robots and humans did not pose a threat were held up as proof that the industrial predilection for white robots was nothing more than racism. (On a side note, test subjects were significantly quicker to shoot armed humans than armed robots, suggesting humans are seriously lacking in species loyalty.)

"The bias against black robots is a result of bias against African-Americans," Bartneck triumphantly declared – and then undermined himself with his own follow-up study. This one removed the humans entirely and found any reaction-time differences between the “white” and “black” robots all but disappeared if the researchers didn’t “prime” the test subjects with racial terms before administering the test – especially when they added a third robot whose color was somewhere between beige and brown. This was interpreted to mean that “diversification of robots might lead to a reduction in racial bias towards them” – not as proof that humans don’t naturally attribute race to clearly nonhuman robots.

The researchers further attempted to drive their point home by including a mosaic of Googled-up robot images as proof that most robots are white. They indeed are, but the only skin-tone beige robot in view is a sex bot and almost none of the plastic-white models featured resemble humans.

There is a clear sense, then, in which these robots do not have – indeed cannot have – race in the same way had by people,” the study authors ultimately acknowledge, but then go on to insist their human test subjects – not the researchers themselves – racialized the robots as black or white despite having the option to pick “does not apply.” Only later do they admit they deliberately altered the robots’ hues from the standard-issue white closer to human skin tones in order to “best replicate the original shooter bias stimuli.

If the researchers wanted to smear AI tech as racist, all they had to do was point to facial recognition technology’s persistent difficulties in identifying black faces, a problem that is leading communities across the US to call for bans on law enforcement use of the tech. They’d at least have an argument. But calling out the diversity police on robotics is just bizarre.

"In the same way that we do want Barbie dolls in all colors and shapes, we also want robots in more than just white,” Bartneck said.

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The West may wonder why it seems to be falling further and further behind in terms of scientific innovation. The recent passing of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions sparked a serious discussion in some corners of what had become of the advanced technological society that was once the envy of the rest of the world.

In other corners, it triggered talk of how the Moon missions were white, male, and utterly problematic. Coincidence?

Helen Buyniski

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Published time: 2019-08-02 04:08:00
Source: www.rt.com